For the people
Coming fresh off the early success of his USD 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, US President Joe Biden's new infrastructure bill appears to be a safe follow-up act. The US has been in sore need of an increased infrastructure budget for decades as expert bodies like the American Society of Civil Engineers warned of the decaying state of American infrastructure from the powerlines to public transport. No one would dispute that America needs investment in infrastructure. This may give the bill an appearance of reaching towards more bipartisan legislation as opposed to heavier topics like gun control but looks can be deceiving. The USD 2 trillion bill is a massive bill with a very broad scope that will be introduced in two parts. The first will address more traditional ideas of infrastructure such as roads, energy, etc. The second 'care economy' part which will include investment in childcare, education, etc., will come later. Before even going into a summary of specifics, it is interesting to note how this bill apparently plans to pay for itself. Biden has promised to raise corporate taxes sufficiently to provide USD 2 trillion in additional tax revenue within the next 15 years. This would basically involve hiking the tax from the current 21 per cent to 28 per cent. There are also a host of new measures to crack down on corporate tax avoidance schemes. As you may imagine, several corporate lobbies and the Republican Party is up in arms regarding this tax revision. Already it becomes easy to see why this particular bill is going to become a point of extreme partisan contention in the coming months. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already called this bill a 'Trojan Horse' for liberals to raise taxes for their own projects. But there is plenty of bold promise in Biden's ambitious infrastructure bill. Consider transportation which is getting a massive USD 621 billion boost which is not only central to Biden's campaign but will also help him create jobs. The additional funding will not only go into repairing and modernising America's transport infrastructure but will also go into transitioning it into green-infrastructure that will aim at reducing greenhouse emissions while doubling spending on public transportation across the nation. Electric vehicle transition in America will get its own USD 174 worth of investment under Biden's new plan which aims to have 500,000 charging stations throughout America by 2030. Another major investment will be in manufacturing which will be to the tune of USD 300 billion. Modernising and localising American manufacturing is key here but so is pushing the green infrastructure campaign which is a common thread throughout this bill. There is also USD 50 billion investment for expanding semiconductor chip manufacturing and USD 30 billion investment for expanding medical equipment manufacturing. Both can be considered a major strategic investment that has become especially necessary in the light of the pandemic where a shortage of both semiconductor chips and medical equipment has been common. Affordable housing and elimination of exclusionary zoning laws is another major infrastructure promise that Biden is looking to deliver on through this bill in form of a USD 213 billion housing bill. And there is so much more to this bill. USD 180 billion for investment in R&D to make the US a world leader in key technology areas like climate science for instance. But at the same time, this investment comes with a plan to diversify where this investment goes by requiring a focus on eliminating racial and gender inequities in science and academics. There is a USD 100 billion investment in workforce development with a plan to shift America's untrained workers to new clean energy, manufacturing and caregiving jobs. There is also an investment to allow former criminals to be retrained, USD 48 billion for apprenticeship programmes, etc. What is clear from a brief reading of the bill is that the Republicans do have some cause to suspect that Biden is not planning for bipartisan bridge-building with this bill. Every single part of the bill is supported by investment into a host of related areas like green-transitions and programmes to reduce inequity. Biden is planning this bill to be a comprehensive way forward to make American infrastructure more modern, greener, more self-reliant and yes, more inclusive. The sheer scope of what he is reaching for and what he is promising to fund it with means that this will inevitably result in massive head to head competitions in the US Congress. Democrats do hold the advantage here but it is a narrow advantage that is dependent on Democrats being able to rally their more moderate members. An epic struggle likely awaits.